Operating in that small kitchen proved excellent training for not only Sharon but for me as well — even before my current emphasis on not complaining. I found the experience fertile ground in which to grow the good fruit of patience, especially when preparing a meal.
We both liked simple foods, a fact which should have prevented having to spread ingredients all over the counter. Like so many single parents, though, I leaned toward short-order cooking of two separate meals, one of traditional children’s foods and another with foods more appealing to my adult taste and adult need for lower calorie intake. So the end result, preparation-wise, was identical. I may as well have been preparing an involved, complex meal.
Cooking a typical evening meal might begin with hauling out a bag of carrots, cutting board, knife, and scraper. The carrots had to be done first, because their preparation took up the sink and two-thirds of the counter space. With the carrots scraped and chopped and back in the refrigerator to chill in their yellow plastic container (a former economy-size margarine container), I cleaned the counter, cutting board, and sink. Next, I hauled out ground beef, salt and pepper, eggs, milk, and bread to mix up hamburger patties. There was not one inch to spare, and quite a few inches too few, by the time all that was sitting on the miniature counter.
I used the ever-faithful, ever-useful large mixing bowl to mix the patties. With two hamburgers sizzling in the frying pan, I packaged up the rest of the patties in aluminum foil, put them in the freezer, cleaned the counter, and started a can of green beans heating on the back burner. Next, I took the cookie sheets and broiling rack out of the oven, put them on the floor by the card table, a further impingement on floor space, then arranged tater tots on a small pan and put them into the oven to heat.
I tried hard to see the humor in all the necessarily careful planning and timing and patient rearranging of bowls, food, pots, and pans. At times, though, like tonight, the best I could manage was a caricature of a grin, a resigned slow shaking of my head, and a tight-lipped silence as I fought hard not to complain out loud.
“It’s so unfair,” I thought as I turned the burgers over and put the ketchup squirter and mustard bottle on the table.
“The Wexels and people like them have so much and we have so little and…”
As I closed the refrigerator door I saw the words, written in red, I had taped above Sharon’s first grade picture and her latest example of penmanship. “Be patient with difficult circumstances.”
I smiled, not much, but a little, and with that, the tension began to ease. I shook my head and laughed, this time a real laugh, as I turned down the heat under the burgers.
“If I hurry,” I thought, “I can get one of our special cheesecakes in the refrigerator before Sharon finishes her shower.